Bauchans

There are several stories of these mythical creatures in Scottish folklore. Bauchans were ambiguous creatures as they could be helpful to people at times though for the most part they were fiercely dangerous.

One bauchan could be found in Lochaber. Courtesy of ulsterbustours.com

There is no clear description as to what bauchans actually looked like. According to some sources they were similar to brownies in appearance- small, hairy, with iron teeth. Others claim that they were fearsome monsters, gigantic in size. Exploring the legends of these creatures is the best way of determining what they were like. Here is one tale of a particularly gruesome bauchan who resided in the Highlands.

Known as Coluinn the Headless, this beast was greatly feared in the Highland area of Morar. He haunted the Smooth Mile between Morar House and the river Morar, attacking and slaughtering travelers along the road. The bauchan only attacked men, leaving women and children unharmed. He was also loyal to the family of the house – perhaps his brutal murders were a way of protecting the inhabitants of Morar House? One of the victims of the beast’s attacks was a relative of the MacLeod clan in Inverness. Iain Garbh, son of the chief, swore to avenge his friend’s death. He went to the place the beast stalked and grabbled with him on the Smooth Mile. Iain overpowered the bauchan and held him on the Smooth Mile until dawn. Coluinn the Headless lost his power and, in exchange for his life, swore never to return to the area. He left Morar and went to live in solititude on a hill in the north of Skye.

Another legend describes the friendship between a bauchan and a crofter called Callum MacIntosh. There seemed to be a love-hate relationship between the two as the bauchan would sometimes help Callum and fight him at other times. During one winter there was a snowstorm in the area and cut off Callum’s house from the land. He couldn’t get out to the woods to chop more firewood for the remaining months. The bauchan helped his friend by felling a huge tree trunk which provided Callum with the firewood he needed to stay out the rest of the season. The bauchan also fought Callum on many occasions. One incident occurred with the two arguing over a handkerchief owned by Callum. The handkerchief was blessed and given to Callum as a gift by his wife. The bauchan demanded it for services that he had rendered Callum previously. Callum told him that if he wanted it he would have to take it from him. He and the bauchan began to tussle for it, resulting in victory for the bauchan. He later returned the object to Callum.

Bauchan’s were also quite difficult to escape from. Callum MacIntosh and his wife eventually emigrated to New York and the bauchan followed them to America where they carried on the same routine as before.

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